From this Perch column: Run for the hills, bagpipes are coming!


"Want to go to a concert with me?", my wife asked recently.

"What kind of concert?", I asked.

"It's called 'Masters of Scottish Arts.'"


"Does that mean bagpipes?" I asked.

"Yep. Featured, in fact."

Every once in a while you're asked to go along with something you may not be inclined to do — in this case the invitation to attend a concert featuring bagpipes.

It's a quandary of sorts.

On one hand, saying "no thanks" to something that doesn't light your fire might be a skillful-act-of-discernment. (Call it "SAD." I know, the irony of that acronym does not escape me, but I'm going with it).

On the other hand, it might be a case of opportunity-thus-far-overlooked. (Call it "OTFO").

A case of SAD suggests that a person has a healthy sense of boundaries.

A case of OTFO suggests that the instinctive "no" may be a limiting barrier to a healthy broadening of one's horizons.

I initially resisted the invitation to attend this Scottish music concert, based solely on the prospect of having to listen to the sound of those bagpipes.

I realize that many people have mastered the instrument — one consisting of reed pipes that make sound from bag-driven wind.

I also know that those who play the instrument have worked hard, and that there are lots of folks who deeply love the sound of bagpipes.

So far, I have just not been one of them.

The concert that I did end up attending (OTFO and marital harmony won out) was held in a large hall — around 500 people present. The vast majority of those in attendance appeared to be "all in" with enthusiasm for everything Scottish.

Our row — Row S — was in the center orchestra section of the hall, and contained around 30 seats. Tight squeeze between rows, and as luck would have it our seats were right in the middle of Row S.

A mid-concert escape was a practical impossibility.

I have to say that I enjoyed the parts of the concert that didn't involve bagpipes: fiddlers, drummers, and Highland dancing.

Stuck deep in Row S early in the concert, I was actually admiring the singing and fiddling in the first number. And then, suddenly, a pack of pipers (a dozen or so) entered stage-left.

Once on stage, they joined in with the other musicians.

Well, it's more accurate to say they took over: there was only the dominating sound of the pack of pipers to be heard.

How did the sound of the pack of pipers affect me?

I found it to be jarring.

I felt like I was in the middle of a 12-car pile-up with the horns of all 12 cars blaring full-blast and non-stop.

It felt like an assault on the sense of hearing.

It felt like I was being punished for something I'd done wrong.

Get the drift?

Strangely, the fiddlers, drummers and singers kept fiddling, drumming and singing after the pack took over, even though they couldn't be heard.

At some point, I tried a coping measure. I closed my eyes and took a shot at a meditative state. I figured if I could imagine that the sound of the bagpipes was actually the calming sound of Tibetan bells, I might be able to cope.


But I stuck it out (no choice), and the concert eventually concluded.

Now, having insulted the sound of bagpipes so thoroughly, I have to admit that there's one major exception to my anti-bagpipe discernment: when I hear a bagpipe being played during a funeral, I usually cry.

Aside from that oddity, I return to the original quandary: is my aversion to the sound of a pack of pipers an example of SAD, or is it a case of OTFO?

I say it's SAD, now wishing I had chosen a different acronym.

Aware of this continuing aversion to the sound of bagpipes, my wife reminds me of a Richard Bach quote: "Argue for your limitations, and sure enough, they're yours."

Which really bugs me because that's usually my line!